Microsoft co-founder and former CEO Bill Gates said that detained Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, has been an “important partner” in the charitable work to improve health conditions around the globe, according to a report by Bloomberg.
According to Gates, who is also a co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, bin Talal has been an integral player in his foundation’s work on ensuring that kids around the world receive life-saving vaccinations.
“I’m only aware of what I’ve read in the press, and I can’t speculate,” the Microsoft co-founder said in an emailed statement.
“We’ve worked together to help stop the spread of polio, measles, and other preventable diseases. His commitment to philanthropy is inspiring,” he added.
Bin Talal has been arrested as part of Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption drive this month.
The Saudi prince is a billionaire investor whose Kingdom Holding Co. owns stakes in companies such as Citigroup, Twitter and US-based ride hailing firm Lyft. He is among the dozens of princes, ministers and senior officials being held on orders from an anti-corruption committee headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Dubbed by some as the Warren Buffett of the Middle East, the Saudi prince has worked with Bill Gates on various projects, including taking the Four Seasons hotel chain private for $3.8 billion. He has also teamed with Gates’s foundation on health initiatives and joined him on the Breakthrough Energy Coalition – a group of wealthy investors who pledged to aim a large portion of their fortunes toward energy technology.
The Saudi Arabian government has officially described the arrest of Bin Talal and dozens of other princes and businessmen as part of a long-planned “anticorruption” effort. Inside the kingdom, the arrests were welcomed by many, especially by millennials, who think their job prospects and economic growth have been slowed by a culture of graft.
According to a report by the New York Times, as Bin Talal has been a longtime public face of finance for Saudi Arabia his arrest and the lack of transparency behind it are causing increasing consternation among his various business partners and in much of the Western business community.
His arrest has also created a sense of uncertainty among investors about whether to do business with Saudi Arabia, which could potentially affect some of its partners, like Masayoshi Son’s $100 billion SoftBank fund, in which the Kingdom holds a 45 percent stake. It could also affect the highly anticipated public offering of the state-owned oil company, Aramco, planned for next year.